At times tedious and at times thrilling, Bloodrayne: Betrayal hearkens back to the sidescrolling platformers of a bygone era of gaming. Instead of being filled with artistic nods and intricate puzzles, players instead take control of a buxom babe and slash their way through 15 levels of monsters leaving a shower of blood in their wake. Detailed character models and an impressive soundtrack are sure to draw a crowd, but Betrayal quickly shows its true colors through its finicky controls and frustrating swings in difficulty. These moments were so frustrating that they reduced one reviewer to a sobbing mess, huddled in the corner of a darkened room asking, “why me?”
The game follows Rayne, a dhampir who takes pleasure in slaughtering her vampire kin, as she joins forces with a useless bunch of soldiers and storms the vampire lord’s castle. The plot is moved forward through dialogue presented in comic book bubbles that are clearly meant to be witty and humorous but often fall short of the mark. Paired with the cartoonish character styling and background, the dialogue bubbles with their eye-rolling attempts of humor leave players feeling as if they are back in the 80s reading the newest issue of their favorite comic.
Betrayal’s greatest downfall is the way it handles its controls. In the game’s early stages, this poses less of a problem—it is not such a big deal if Rayne stomps on some writhing vampire’s head instead of slashing at the enemy standing in front of her. But in later stages, while jumping on the heads of exploding bugs, dodging rockets and sprinting through moving, rotating saws of death, it becomes much more of a problem. Precise and well-timed jumps require precise and responsive controls. When a player taps a button expecting a certain action to happen and instead Rayne does something entirely different (or perhaps nothing at all) it makes for a frustrating gaming experience. In addition to this, once Rayne is airborne there is very little room for action—it becomes almost impossible to change her course or perform actions while she is in the air.
This is where the difficulty swings from one extreme to the other; Rayne can go from sprinting effortlessly through a level to hitting an area where imprecise controls make for a tedious journey. To compound this, checkpoints are often placed in the most awkward of places. For example, there is one point in the game where Rayne must complete an intricate series of jumps on vanishing platforms while killing enemies. The checkpoint is just before this point and there is no sign of another one for some time after it. So, one mistake can turn into an utter nightmare as players are forced to continue plugging through difficult areas time and again.
In a nutshell, Bloodrayne is anything but a leisurely stroll for the casual player. The gameplay is fast-paced and leaves little room for error. The battles are exciting and there is no shortage of monsters of varying abilities for Rayne to hack and slash her way through. The monsters are beautifully detailed and range from gentlemanly vampires to gruesome demons. A large range of attacks and combos keep combat interesting. Aside from adding combat variety, these combos come into play throughout the stages as Rayne flings enemies into the air or across the screen to get past difficult obstacles.
The game is beautifully animated. Rayne’s attacks are fluid and well done. The graphics are colorful and as mentioned above the monsters that populate the levels are interesting and visually exciting. This makes for an interesting contrast, as so often modern games are filled with lush backgrounds and populated with lack-luster enemies. More than pretty graphics, however, Bloodrayne’s soundtrack is where the game really shines. Like most of the game, the soundtrack feels like a nod to the old school Castlevania. Brilliant pieces of classical darkness to compliment the brooding life of a half-vampire vixen hell bent on destroying her vampire father.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal is available over PSN and XBLA, but only serious fans of gothic platformers need apply.